That's Some Mighty Authoritarian Tea
Yesterday, Jesse Walker noted that Arizona's Tea Party seems to have rallied around opposition to immigration, and invited the poster thug for overly aggressive law enforcement, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, to keynote the group's Tax Day rally.
In a similar vein, the libertarian writer Jim Bovard visited a Maryland Tea Party on Tax Day, and found little more than a different variety of authoritarianism:
…there is scant evidence that most tea partyers have studied the copies of the Constitution they generously hand out to bystanders.
At a Tax Day tea party in Rockville, Md., the speaking venue was draped with a huge banner: "Tired of Big Government?" Members of the "Tyranny Response Team" stood near the front of the rally with their official blue T-shirts. Giant American flags and ones with "Don't Tread on Me" (with a coiled rattlesnake) were carried around by men with tri-corn hats. Political campaigns busily sold "9/11 Remembrance" bracelets.
And yet, the crowd of 300 seemed most outraged that the US government is not being sufficiently aggressive in using its power.
Ken Timmerman, the author of "Preachers of Hate: Islam and the War on America" and other hawkish books, declaimed that the US government must take every step to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons…
Running through a litany of President Obama's greatest failings, Timmerman denounced him for forcing US agents to "stop using enhanced interrogation methods. Has that made us safer?"
"No!" the crowd hollered indignantly.
Jeffrey Kuhner, a local talk-show host, sneered that Obama "has found his inner Muslim" and raged against his bowing to foreign leaders and kings. He complained that Obama has "taken over college loans," and warned that illegal immigrants could be "the shock troops of Obama's socialist revolution." The crowd ate it up.
One of the MCs gushed about how he and everyone else in the crowd loved the police. There was not a word spoken about the video released earlier that week showing a nearby horrendous police beating of an innocent University of Maryland college student.
The rally featured a string of Republican candidates praising fiscal responsibility and denouncing the national debt. One would have thought that it had been 50 years, rather than 15 months, since the Republicans controlled the White House.
There was almost no dissent from any of the 300 attendees. One 50-something man in a faded green T-shirt walked around with a handmade sign declaring, "Stop the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – Bring Our Troops Home Now!" He told me that almost no one he'd talked agreed with his message…
Much more in tune with the crowd was the 20-something woman carrying a sign: "PROUD to be the Military Super Power."…
None of the speakers criticized the warrantless wiretaps that the National Security Agency began during the Bush administration. The feds' vacuuming up thousands of Americans' phone calls and e-mails without a warrant seems to be a nonissue for these folks. Perhaps some tea party leaders hope that Republicans will soon be in position to use such powers to surveil the left…
If tea party activists cannot vigorously oppose torture and other high crimes, then counting on them to stalwartly resist any government policy that doesn't mulct their paycheck is folly.
America needs real champions of freedom – not poorly informed Republican accomplices. Either tea partyers should become more principled or they should ditch their Gadsden flags and wear T-shirts of the lobbying group that organizes the rally they attend.
There's obviously not going to be pure ideological unity at these events, and I'd have no problem if the Tea Parties were merely silent on issues like foreign policy, law enforcement, and the war on terror—that is, if people who disagree on those particular issues had come together for the purpose of rallying against government debt, bailouts, spending, and so on. But it's increasingly looking like the right's favored big government policies are a fairly important part of the agenda of a fairly large portion of the Tea Party crowd. Advocating for more police power, more foreign policy imperialism, and more power for the federal government to detain, torture, and abrogate basic civil liberties sort of misses the entire message of the original Tea Party.
It also makes a mockery of the media narrative that these are gathering of anti-government extremists. Seems like in many parts of the country they're as pro-government as the current administration, just pro-their kind of government.